A duel for the ages.
By Shane Tomayer
You may have made your way to the Civic centre Friday night for any number of reasons. A lust for rink burgers? General fan of hockey? One of the many loyal Bobcat fans who are in attendance game after game? Perhaps you wanted to support Jari Kykkanen in his first Jr A start (for the Thunder)? Maybe you love games determined by a shootout, and were optimistic you would see that happen? Whatever reason brought you to the CCC or perhaps to tune in on Hockey TV or MixLr you were rewarded.
The game started on an odd note. With a penalty for the Bobcats. And not that early in the game Drayton Valley drew a penalty, but that literally as a result of a warm up violation the Cats would take the opening faceoff down a man. That opening two minutes could have stood as foreshadowing as the home side killed the penalty very effectively. A successful effort on the Wayside Dental penalty kill would be something they would accomplish another 5 times this game – 6 for 6 shorthanded for the homeside, impressive to say the least.
Four and half minutes into the opening period Skehar would let go a shot from the blueline past a screened Kykkanen to start off the scoring. That would be the lone goal for the first 20.
The second period carried further results for the Cats. 12 minutes into the frame the Cats on their second power play of the night, Kolton Shindle from the top of the left faceoff sent the puck off the Drayton Valley goalies pads straight onto the tape of Matthew Swanson who made no mistake in potting his 5th of the season. Fast forward, the Thunder would score late in period 2 and then again with under 18 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.
Through 60 minutes both goalies had made several 5 star saves. Shooters were frustrated all night by the acrobatics and precision of the goalies on both ends. Truly a goaltending duel that on its own was worth the price of admission.
Into overtime things started slow, as they generally do in 3 on 3 hockey, with no player wanting to make the error that would cost their squad a win. Four quick saves in a 30 second stretch of overtime would show that Thornton also was unwilling to make a mistake to cost the Bobcats a trip back into the win column. The 5 minute overtime would solve nothing for either team, giving the fans in attendance full value for their ticket costs.
Whether or not you like shootouts being the determining factor for a hockey game you can’t disparage the entertainment value. As always each team would select their three shooters to get things going.
Forrest would be the first with the puck for the visiting side. He made a solid move to a shot that would end up wide left of the goal.
Matthew Swanson was Nigel Dubes first shooter and he would look to find the back of the net for the second time on the evening. Starting out to his right side he came in tight with plenty of puck movement to stretch out Kykkanen and ultimately raise one past the goalie on his back hand to start the shootout off on the right foot.
Kayden Chabot leading scorer for the Thunder would be their second effort. Moving to the right and coming in slow he opted for a shot that was easily directed aside by Thornton, putting the Bobcats firmly into the driver seat.
Mack Stewart would attack second for the home team. He would start left, move right and then come across the goal mouth before letting go of a quick release that would fly over the right pad of the netminder under the blocker and bulge the twine to solidify the win for the Bobcats.
A full 60 minutes was talked about the last two days, that this would be the key for the Bobcats to get past the AJ North leading (at puck drop) Drayton Valley Thunder. They certainly put that effort and more forward. The coaching staff and players were all smiles after putting a mark in the good column. Head Coach and General Manager Nigel Dube, “Anyone in the stands was treated to a great AJHL game tonight. It was a full 65 minute battle and the boys worked every inch to come out with 2 points.”
Of course this game came on the heels of losing three straight to the (now) North Division leading Oil Barons, “I think it was a big response to the game on Wednesday. We matched our first and second period efforts in the third tonight.”
The Cats have had a hectic start to the campaign and are looking forward to a brief break and some R&R. Dube continued, “After playing 3 games a week since preseason started it was great to see such a team effort tonight before getting a couple days off to recharge and get healthy again.”
The Bobcats do have a full week before their next game action. Next Friday the club will head south to Okotoks for a pair of weekend games against the Oilers on the 22nd and the Canucks in Calgary the following day. Next home action will be the 27th when they will play host to the Spruce Grove Saints.